Blackheads are unsightly, stubborn and can appear at any time without warning. And while it may be tempting to poke and pick the blemishes, it’s not the best way to eliminate the appearance of them – if anything it could make them look and feel worse. Follow our expert advice and try these at-home blackhead removal tips, before resorting to a costly, deep-clean facial…
What are blackheads & how are they caused?
Before embarking on a new skincare regime to banish blackheads, it’s important to understand what they are and why they appear.
Pores naturally release sebum, which helps to moisturise and protect skin, but a combination of oil and dead skin cells can clog the hair follicle, resulting in a blackhead. As skin attempts to secrete and shed sebum and dead cells, the bacteria come into contact with oxygen at the opening of the pore, which then turns black.
Blackhead Removal Tips
Choose products packed with salicylic acid
A key ingredient in many acne treatments, salicylic acid is great at attacking blemishes including blackheads. Without boring you with all the detailed science behind the ingredient, it essentially deeply exfoliates the skin by breaking up the skins ‘glue’ and unclogs the pore.
Use on skin once or twice a day and look out for products with concentrations between 0.5-2%. As it can give such a thorough cleansing of the skin, it can have a drying effect on the skin so be careful not to overdo. Avoid keeping formulas on for too long and if you notice any flaking, give your skin a break.
Top up your cleansing regime with a scrub, as this will gently exfoliate and get rid of dead skin cells that can potentially clog pores (resulting in blackheads).
Look for oil-free products
One of the causes of blackheads is excess oil, so if you’re suffering from blackheads it’s best to incorporate oil-free or noncomedogenic makeup and skincare products in your regime.
Try retinol & retinoids
Usually associated with anti-ageing, retinol products and retinoids are also recognised by dermatologists for removing blackheads. Without over-stripping, these products keep skin cells turning over and replenishing efficiently.
Don’t skip out on the moisturiser
If you’re undergoing deep exfoliation and cleansing treatments in a bid to banish blackheads, it’s likely all the oil-stripping methods will dry out the skin. But, it’s vital to keep the balance right and provide nourishment with the help of a moisturiser. If you’re worried about adding oil, always opt for a noncomedogenic moisturiser.
The Blackhead-Busting Routine
Wash your face twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, with an oil-free cleanser that’s formulated to target blackheads.
Use a face scrub twice a week to remove dead skin cells, and opt for one that contains lactic acid to help absorb excess oil.
Treat your skin to a detoxifying facemask once a week to cleanse the skin of dirt and bacteria thoroughly. Clay masks stimulate the blood flow and draw out impurities – you’ll be able to see excess sebum as it surfaces on the clay.
Removing blackheads with pore strips
Pore strips can help you remove blackheads with one quick movement - and some people find them ridiculously satisfying to use!
Start by washing your face with a deep-cleansing electronic face brush to loosen any sebum and dead skin cells that might be blocking pores. Then wet your nose (the strip won’t stick otherwise) and apply the strip, smoothing it down as you go and making sure there are no lumps. Once the strip has dried, slowly peel it off, starting at the edges.
Should you squeeze blackheads?
We know how tempting it is to squeeze blackheads, but it’s important not to squeeze every one you see – and remember that squeezing can increase the risk of scarring.
Focus on the oldest blackheads – they tend to be darker in colour and will be easier to remove. If you try to squeeze newer blackheads, you risk damaging the pore walls, which allows the bacteria to spread to the surrounding tissue and cause spots to form.
Start the process by holding your head over a bowl of hot water or having a hot shower – the steam helps to soften the pores. Then wrap a tissue around the fingers you’ll be squeezing with, to help stop the bacteria spreading, and gently push down on either side of the blackhead, slowly moving your fingers around so you’re not constantly putting pressure on the same area of skin.
The blackhead should come out fairly easily; if it doesn’t, leave it for another day. Once you’re finished, apply a clay mask to the affected area to help reduce the inflammation.